An Australian court has awarded nearly a million dollars to an Australian politician, her husband and her charity after an Australian conspiracy theorist spent two weeks defaming them, without any evidence, of being part of a secret pedophile network.
On Tuesday, Justice Jacqueline Gleeson ordered Karen Brewer to pay a combined $875,000 to federal politician Anne Webster, Philip Webster and Zoe Support Australia, a charity for young Australian mothers, in damages plus court costs.
Justine Gleeson found that Brewer, who did not appear in the Federal Court or participate in any way, defamed Webster in 7 Facebook posts posted in April and May this year. Before being removed by Facebook, the posts had been engaged with more than 4,000 times.
Justice Gleeson wrote in the judgment that there was no evidence to support Brewer’s unfounded claims. She said that there was a small amount of evidence that the Webster’s reputations had been harmed by the defaming, and that their reputations were essential to their work.
“The conduct of Ms Brewer in defaming the applicants in the seven relevant publications is both disgraceful and inexplicable,” Gleeson wrote.
How did the conspiracy theorist’s defaming impact Webster?
Karen Brewer is a well-known Australian conspiracy theorist. In 2019, she spread misinformation that encouraged people to submit an informal vote in the federal election, falsely alleging that it would allow people to “sack the government”. She was wrong.
But her most passionate — yet baseless — claim is about a secret, historic pedophile ring running in Australia. It’s a theory that aligns with the sprawling, all-encompassing QAnon conspiracy theory. (Although strictly speaking, Brewer has never said she believes in QAnon, so it’s more QAnon-aligned)
First reported by The Guardian in August, Brewer accused the Websters were protecting child abusers and used their charity as a front for child sex trafficking, repeatedly defaming them.
Webster told the Court about how it felt to be targeted with this conspiracy theory.
“To have someone discredit you, tear you apart from limb to limb, call you a liar and worse … even if they are deranged, it still hurts. She can share at liberty these shocking lies,” she said
Later, Webster told the Court that she had installed security cameras at her home out of fear that she would be targeted by conspiracy believers.
At the time of writing, Brewer’s Facebook profile is no longer active.